philosophy-of-science? And why is this needed?
In every research discipline, there are various schools of thought that rely on different basic assumptions and different theories and methods
— thus, on different paradigms. But the basic assumptions underlying a given paradigm are not always made explicit. This complicates collaborations between scientists from different traditions and disciplines. In her new research trilogy, Jana Uher explored the “theories behind the theories and methods”
— the metatheories and methodologies—that are used to study individuals in various fields. This abstract level of exploration is referred to as philosophy-of-science. She demands that scientists make explicit their most basic assumptions and critically reflect on possible biases that they themselves may have introduced into their research. In research on individuals, this is particularly important because scientists are always individuals themselves; therefore, scientists studying individuals are not independent from their objects of research. This profound problem is often not well considered.
A new scientific paradigm for research on individuals
It has been long known that a comprehensive understanding of individuals requires the joint expertise of multiple disciplines. But theories and methods from different disciplines cannot be easily combined, and the findings often cannot be directly compared. Therefore, Jana Uher has explored the “theories behind the theories and
methods” – the metatheories and methodologies - that researchers from different disciplines have developed about individuals. On this abstract level of consideration –
in science, referred to as
philosophy-of-science – she specified three properties that determine the ways in which humans can perceive a given phenomenon. As all scientists are humans, these three properties also determine the methods needed to overcome the limitations of human perception for enabling scientific investigations. On the basis of these properties, Jana Uher developed research frameworks that are applicable across the sciences and that are integrated in the Transdisciplinary Philosophy-of-Science Paradigm. This new paradigm therefore provides important tools for bridging gaps between disciplines and for enabling collaborative research.
There is hardly anything that is as central to anyone’s life as “personality”, which is unique and distinctive for every individual. But what is it that we call “personality”? And why are there so many different definitions? These questions were explored by Jana Uher. In a comprehensive trilogy of research papers, she has investigated the meta-theories – the “theories behind the theories” – that scientists have developed about individuals and “personality”. This metatheoretical perspective sheds new light on the many existing definitions of “personality” and unravels the commonalities and differences between them.
Comparison of "personality" differences between four monkey species: A novel methodology to unravel communalities and differences
"Personality" differences have already been demonstrated in the behaviour of many species. But how similar or distinct are the "personality" differences described for different species? In her new study, Jana Uher introduces a comprehensive research methodology for systematic cross-species comparisons. Their application in four monkey species from four different continents reveals many commonalities but also exiting species differences.
[Press release] (18.09.2015)
"Personality" differences but no sex differences in the individual behaviour
of four monkey species from three different continents
In their appearance, the sexes differ from one another in many animal species. Males are often bigger and physically stronger than females. But sex differences in body morphology need not go along with sex differences in behaviour as a recent study on monkeys showed. In each of four species, stable individual behavioural differences-thus, "personality" differences-occurred but sex differences were largely absent. These findings shed new light on many evolutionary psychologists' assumption that sex differences in human behaviour inevitably result from the bodily differences between men and women and thus constitute an evolutionary heritage of humans.
[Press release] (14.09.2015)
Sex differences - not as universal as previously thought
In capuchin monkeys, as in many species, males are larger than
females. Are males also more bold, more explorative and less anxious than
females? Far from it. A new study revealed that capuchin monkeys show hardly any sex differences in their individual
behaviours. These findings shed new light on an age-old question.
Human's "personality glasses" - why we form impressions of individuals. New insights into a uniquely human ability
The ability to quickly form impressions of other individuals' "personality" seems to be a uniquely human ability. A 3-year cross-species study of 104 crab-eating macaques and 99 human observers of these monkeys further explored this fascinating human ability. The study illuminated the ways in which judgements of individuals are influenced by beliefs about age, status and sex differences that are rooted in our everyday knowledge and that tend to be stereotypical. These intuitive beliefs are like glasses through which we form impressions of the "personality" of individuals.
These beliefs even affect how we judge individuals of other species! The study unravels common mistakes that we make when forming impressions of individuals. But despite widespread inaccuracies and mistakes, the ability to quickly form impressions of strangers could have been of enormous importance in human evolution: It enabled our ancestors to trade with unknown individuals of foreign cultures, and it was also an essential prerequisite for the domestication of animals.
An exciting study about humans and monkeys from different continents.
When Biologists and
Psychologists talk at cross-purposes
No one alike - "personality" differences in the
Misunderstandings in communication happen every day—and this also happens in the sciences. A new study explored the “theories behind the theories” on “personality” and individual differences and unravelled fundamental misunderstandings between biologists and psychologists. These misunderstandings not only hamper collaborative research across disciplines; but they can also mislead the development of theories. This is an all-too-common story about how language can produce understanding and misunderstanding. A story that can also be told in the sciences.
Great apes are human's closest living relatives. Their cognitive
abilities have been investigated and compared to those of humans for a
long time. But so far, researchers have largely ignored the
pronounced individuality of great apes and have dismissed
them as purely anthropomorphic ideas. At the Max-Planck-Institute for
Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Jana Uher developed new
research methodologies and approaches to explore the pronounced
individual differences in the great apes. Her comprehensive
studies in the Leipzig Zoo systematically demonstrate
individual-specific behaviours - i.e., "personality"
differences - in the great apes.